Oh, the offensive line.
It’s become a regular storyline here in San Diego, unfortunately.
Week three is here and the Chargers will likely once again start a player that shouldn’t be starting in Chris Hairston, and perhaps another in Trevor Robinson.
Incumbent guard D.J. Fluker (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday and would be a surprise to play on Sunday in Minnesota (although he could return quicker than initial reports, perhaps next week against Cleveland).
Center Chris Watt also did not practice on Wednesday and was listed with a groin injury.
Here’s where things get tricky.
Prior to Watt’s groin injury, there was talk—even last week—that he could slide to right guard (the position the Chargers drafted him at) and Trevor Robinson would step in at center.
That seems unlikely to happen now.
Even if Watt were to play on Sunday, starting him at guard would be a mistake. Missing regular reps during practice at a position he hasn’t played in awhile is a dangerous gamble.
Furthermore, it would shake up the offensive line even more. Although Trevor Robinson is a natural center and he does have experience working with quarterback Philip Rivers, the bottom line is, he’d be another new face on the offensive line’s starting unit.
Chris Watt at guard would mean the same thing.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the first two games of the season, it’s that this unit is still learning to gel as is, even without Fluker.
Against the Bengals, the offensive line was pushed around. Rivers was sacked four times and hit seven times on 31 dropbacks.
Left guard Orlando Franklin, who arrived from Denver this past offseason with much praise, was beaten twice, including the sack-fumble on Rivers. Bengals defense end Carlos Dunlap handled right tackle Joe Barksdale on one, and both Watt and Hairston were beaten on another.
Yes, Hairston’s first ever start at right guard was subpar. He was flagged three times, twice for holding and once for a fall start. But, while not an excuse, one could argue any backup would be susceptible to penalties in his first start.
And let’s not forget the Bengals front is as good as any in the NFL.
“Well I think it will get better and better and they’ll grow closer and closer and play better and better together as the year goes,” Rivers said when asked about the offensive line’s play in Cincinnati. “On Sunday, all of us, myself , we all have some plays we want back. We wished we would have played a little better but there were no red flags last week that were alarming, anywhere on the field, at least speaking offensively, that said ‘uh-oh, what are we going to do.’ It’s just clean it up and move on.”
Look, no other position group on the field requires as much continuity and familiarity to perform as the offensive line.
Whether Watt plays or not, Hairston should remain at right guard.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
Andrew Burer joined Dan Sileo on radio Thursday morning to talk about the Chargers’ struggles on the offensive line and why its becoming a perpetual problem.